Scientists in this rapidly growing field are finding connections between the gut microbiome and a healthy immune system and gastrointestinal system, as well as autoimmune diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease), allergies and asthma – even cancer. And with every study that is published, they are convinced that a healthy gut leads to a healthy body. Indeed, when your gut is happy, your skin glows with health and you look and feel younger.
Moves like the tolasana and the eight subsequent ones we did that day are representative of a shift that ab exercises have taken in the past decade or so. Previously there was a tendency to isolate the abdominal muscles to give each one an individual workout — crunches for your rectus abdominis, bicycles for the obliques — but as Olson points out, that's not the way it works in real life. "When you're reaching up to get something, picking up a baby or bending down, you need all the muscles to work together," she says. "Instead of targeting each one, you should aim for functional fitness, where the muscles work as a unit."
WHAT'S GOING ON: There are two kinds of belly fat: There's the stuff right under your skin that you can pinch (ugh), called subcutaneous fat. But that's actually the less harmful kind. It's visceral fat that poses a real threat to your health. It plumps your middle from the inside out, surrounding organs such as your liver, lungs, and heart—and putting you at greater risk for heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers, says Kristen Gill Hairston, M.D., an endocrinologist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC.
I’m doing the ab challenge this month and am loving it. I was wondering if we couldn’t do a challenge next month as well, but maybe one for the back… I’m just worried that all this crunching will make me look like a banana :P Though actually, a lot of guys in my class look like bananas because of working only abs, really… Or maybe you could just suggest some good back moves, and I’ll do that for myself.
Yup, this means all the “secret ab routines” you see about targeting certain abs (Upper abs! Lower abs! Obliques!) mean diddly-squat about getting rid of the fat on top of those muscles – those are only necessary when you are at a low bodyfat percentage. Which means you can stop doing 10 different ab exercises to hit the different muscles in your stomach. It’s not a good use of your time!
Try the Spiderman Climber: Get into plank position with arms and legs extended, hands beneath shoulders, and feet flexed. Keeping your abs tight, bend your left leg out to the side and bring the knee toward the left elbow. Pause, then return to start. Switch sides. Do 20 reps, alternating sides, with 30 minutes of cardio 5 to 6 times a week. For an additional challenge, perform planks with forearms on the floor, as shown. (Watch this video to make sure you're neailing the proper form every time.)
Seated medicine ball twists are a great way to get a toned midsection because they target your obliques while also engaging your abdominals and lower back muscles. When doing this exercise, Mark advises people to keep their feet on the ground. “This one is all about form, so keep your feet on the ground, lean back just enough to feel an engagement in your abdominals, and make a nice full turn with your shoulders,” he explains, noting you should feel that satisfying core burn in no time.